What makes young people happy?
Press release issued: 8 April 2009
Living with a partner and having good health are key sources of happiness for both young men and women, according to new research from the University of Bristol. The research, which was carried out on 1,100 young adults aged 20-34 in Bristol, looked at how work and other factors, including relationships, health and home life, affect our happiness.
Living with a partner and having good health are key sources of happiness for both young men and women, according to a new report from researchers in the Department of Sociology.
The research, which was carried out on 1,100 young adults aged 20-34 in Bristol between 2000 and 2002, looked at how work and other factors, including relationships, health and home life, affect our happiness.
The key findings are that:
- Living with a partner and having good health are key sources of happiness for both men and women
- People who are happy at work are more likely to be happy with life in general
- A sense of control over one’s life is a crucial factor which underpins other factors
- Women who have a good home life are happier with life in general
- Education has a strong influence on how men, but not women, feel about work
- Men who have a university degree are less satisfied with their work than men who don’t
- Job security is more important to men than women
- Income is an important factor in determining satisfaction about work for both men and women, but does not have a direct influence on satisfaction with life in general
- When people don’t regard their work highly, other sources of happiness are much more important
- Most of the young adults interviewed said they had good 'life satisfaction' (happiness), compared to 12-15 per cent who said they didn't.
The research shows that men’s satisfaction with work is influenced by education, income and job security, whereas women’s happiness is shaped by income and career development. This suggests that men care more about job security and finding a job that matches their educational background than women do.
It also suggests that women are prepared to accept different social and economic roles but work contributes less to overall happiness for women than it does for men. However, women do not necessarily regard careers as 'unimportant' to them; but they do have more than one priority.
It also shows that a sense of control over life and living with a partner can cancel out or balance the risks of unemployment and job insecurity. This suggests that young people are much more resilient than some commentators suggest.
Speaking about the findings of the report, co-author Dr Nabil Khattab from the University’s Department of Sociology said:
‘One of the important findings of this study is that money is not what makes us feel happy or not, so that during times of economic recession, when many people are losing their jobs and unemployment is increasing, we would not anticipate a dramatic fall in the level of life satisfaction (overall happiness), at least not in the short term, especially if they are able to maintain a good sense of control over life.’
The full report, What Makes Young People Happy? Employment and Non-work as Determinants of Life Satisfaction, by Dr Nabil Khattab and Professor Steve Fenton from the Department of Sociology is published in Sociology (Sage).